The Vow (TV series)

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Vow
The Vow title.png
GenreDocumentary
Music by
Opening theme"Dream State (Brighter Night)" by Bonnie Piesse & Son Lux
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes15 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Victor Buhler
  • Rosadel Varela
  • Claire Reade
  • Aleks Gezentsvey
  • Sara Rodriguez
  • Christina D. King
  • Mona Eldaief
  • Dan Hacker
  • Richard Hankin
  • John Miller-Monzon
Cinematography
  • Sam Price-Waldman
  • Bowie Alexander
  • Ian Moubayed
  • Omar Mullick
Editors
  • Aleks Gezentsvey
  • Christopher Passig
  • Alicia Ellis
  • Rebecca Adorno
  • Karim López
  • Nyneve Minnear
  • Erin Casper
  • David Osit
  • Arielle Sherman
  • Daniel Koehler
  • Kevin Chapados
  • Kim Hall
  • David Zieff
  • Hana Wuerker
  • Rameen Aminzadeh
  • Austin Reedy
  • Rob Leshin
  • Brittany Kaplan
Running time56–58 minutes
Production companies
DistributorHBO
Release
Original networkHBO
Original releaseAugust 23, 2020 (2020-08-23) –
November 21, 2022 (2022-11-21)

The Vow is an American true crime documentary series directed by Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer that revolves around the cult NXIVM and its leader Keith Raniere. The NXIVM documentary series premiered on August 23, 2020 on HBO.[1][2]

In October 2020, the series was renewed for a second season, which premiered on October 17, 2022.[3][4]

Premise

The Vow follows members who joined the self-improvement group NXIVM – whose leader, Keith Raniere, was convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy, among other crimes – and reveals the emotional toll of unfolding events, as well as the role Smallville actress Allison Mack played in recruiting new members.[5] In the first season, former NXIVM members Sarah Edmondson, Mark Vicente, Bonnie Piesse, Anthony "Nippy" Ames, Barbara Bouchey, Susan Dones and Toni Natalie appear prominently, alongside journalists Frank Parlato, who helped start initial reporting on the criminal activity of NXIVM, and New York Times reporter Barry Meier.[6][7][8][9] Catherine Oxenberg appears in the series as she attempts to rescue her daughter India Oxenberg,[10] a story at the center of another docuseries, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.[11]

The second season of the series focuses on Raniere's trial, and a continued look inside his inner circle and ongoing supporters, with interviews with co-founder, Nancy Salzman and her daughter, Michelle Salzman, supporters Nicki Clyne, Marc Elliot, Michele Hatchette, Eduardo Aunsolo, former NXIVM members, Karen Unterreiner, Isabella Costantino and Verónica Jaspeado, New York Post journalist Emily Saul, lead prosecutor, Moira Kim Penza, and defense attorney Marc Agnifilo.[12][13]

Production

In 2007, Jehane Noujaim took a NXIVM course after being recruited by Sara Bronfman.[14] Noujaim previously wanted to make a documentary about NXIVM, after hearing about people's lives being changed within days, but was unable to get the access she needed to make the film.[15] Noujaim returned to finish her courses in 2017, where she was told about abuses within the organization and began documenting alongside Karim Amer.[16] Editors on the project suggested Noujaim participate as a subject in the series, however, since she only took two weeks of classes compared to other participants in the series, she felt it would not be right.[17] Noujaim and Amer planned to split the story in two parts, with the first part focusing on those who left the cult, with the second focusing on the legal aspect.[18] With the second season set to be its last, Noujaim has expressed interest in making a third season or a special focusing on the organization in Mexico, as majority of members were from Mexico.[19][20]

Production on the series began in 2017, initially focusing on Sarah Edmondson, Mark Vicente, Bonnie Piesse, Anthony Ames, and Catherine Oxenberg as a way to document their escape from NXIVM as they were fearful of being sued by Clare Bronfman, and wanted to protect themselves by having it taped.[21] The series was shot using Cinéma vérité, with all involved in the project unsure what would happen to NXIVM and Raniere.[22] Oxenberg filmed with Noujaim and Amer for a year-and-a-half before reuniting with her daughter, India Oxenberg, who throughout the first season, she attempts to rescue.[23] Oxenberg decided to split from the production in fear her daughter would not reunite with her with cameras around.[24] India Oxenberg decided not to participate in the series as she was not ready at the time of production to share her story to any outlet; she later did in Seduced, which focuses on her story as told by her and her mother.[25] Cult expert Janja Lalich served as a consultant on the series.[26]

The series additionally features archive footage and recordings of Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, Clare Bronfman, Sara Bronfman, Emiliano Salinas, Nicki Clyne, Marc Elliot, among others, which were shot by Vicente, as part of NXIVM's plan to document Raniere 24/7 for "future generations", and how "wise" he was.[27][28]

In April 2019, it was announced the series had been greenlit by HBO, with HBO Documentary Films producing.[29][30]

In September 2020, in an interview with Variety Noujaim stated "We reached out to everybody involved — many people, on all sides of the story — and we are continuing to film."[31] On October 16, 2020, HBO renewed the series for a second season.[3] For the second season, Noujaim directed the season without Karim Amer, who departed to focus on other projects, but remained an executive producer.[32] Noujaim wanted to interview all involved in NXIVM including its founder Nancy Salzman, who took a year to decide to participate in the series, to show a 360-view of an "eco-system of manipulation".[32][33]

Episodes

Season 1 (2020)

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title [34]Directed byOriginal air date [34]U.S. viewers
(millions)
11"The Science of Joy"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
August 23, 2020 (2020-08-23)0.342[35]
22"Viscera"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
August 30, 2020 (2020-08-30)0.338[36]
33"At Cause"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
September 6, 2020 (2020-09-06)[a]0.341[38]
44"Building Character"Omar MullickSeptember 13, 2020 (2020-09-13)0.304[39]
55"Class 1 Data"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
September 20, 2020 (2020-09-20)0.362[40]
66"Honesty & Disclosure"Karim Amer
Jehane Noujaim
September 27, 2020 (2020-09-27)0.318[41]
77"Blame & Responsibility"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
October 4, 2020 (2020-10-04)0.257[42]
88"The Wound"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
October 11, 2020 (2020-10-11)0.266[43]
99"The Fall"Jehane Noujaim
Karim Amer
October 18, 2020 (2020-10-18)0.360[44]

Season 2 (2022)

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title [45]Directed by [45]Original air date [45]U.S. viewers
(millions)
101"Tests of Loyalty"Jehane NoujaimOctober 17, 2022 (2022-10-17)0.143[46]
112"Rapport"Jehane NoujaimOctober 24, 2022 (2022-10-24)0.105[47]
123"Stimulus and Response"Jehane NoujaimOctober 31, 2022 (2022-10-31)N/A
134"The Breach"Jehane NoujaimNovember 7, 2022 (2022-11-07)N/A
145"The Room"Jehane NoujaimNovember 14, 2022 (2022-11-14)0.100[48]
156"Crime and Punishment"Karim Amer
Jehane Noujaim
November 21, 2022 (2022-11-21)0.129[49]

Reception

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds an approval rating of 72% based on 29 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Though The Vow's scope at times exceeds its reach, its empathetic approach to unpacking NXIVM's manipulations and the consequences therein make for necessary, difficult viewing."[50] On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[51]

In year-end best of 2020 television and documentary lists, The Vow found itself on the lists of The Washington Post,[52] The Los Angeles Times,[53] Entertainment Weekly,[54] Variety,[55] Thrillist,[56] Concrete Playground,[57] and The Lineup.[58] A number of reviews praised The Vow's intimate exploration, measured pace and extensive footage, but criticized its abstract storytelling and focus. In a positive review, Adrian Horton of The Guardian wrote that "as a portrait of manipulation and, in particular, the masking of female abuse through self-effacement, the series is darkly compelling, unnerving in a way that’s hard to shake," but conceded "[it] deceptively muddies the timeline of the group’s development."[59] Variety's Daniel D'Addario wrote that "The Vow pushes back against its slack pace to become television that compels — both for the access it has and for what it does with that access."[60] Richard Lawson writing in Vanity Fair, was critical stating: "The Vow meanders through the downward arc of a cult’s fall, but gives us little sense of its history."[61] The A.V. Club's Ashley Ray-Harris was less impressed and attributed the "wasted nine hours" and selective content to the (former NXIVM) filmmakers' desire to "get ahead of the curve with their own narrative."[62] Maureen Ryan of the New York Times, in an otherwise positive review described the series as "only scratch[ing] the surface" and "padded... repetitive."[63]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season has an approval rating of 67% based on 9 reviews, with an average rating of 2.6/10.[64] On Metacritic, the season has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on 4 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[65]

Accolades

Year Award Category Nominees Result Ref.
2021 Cinema Eye Honors Outstanding Cinematography in a Broadcast Film or Series Ian Moubayed & Sam Price-Waldman Nominated [66][67]
Critics' Choice Real TV Awards Best Crime/Justice Show The Vow Nominated [68]
Best Ongoing Documentary Series The Vow Nominated [68]
Hollywood Critics Association Best Broadcast Network or Cable Docuseries, Documentary Television Movie, or Non-Fiction Series The Vow Nominated [69]

Ratings

Season 1

Viewership and ratings per episode of The Vow
No. Title Air date Rating
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
1 "The Science of Joy" August 23, 2020 0.07 0.342[35]
2 "Viscera" August 30, 2020 0.09 0.338[36]
3 "At Cause" September 6, 2020 0.06 0.341[38]
4 "Building Character" September 13, 2020 0.05 0.304[39]
5 "Class 1 Data" September 20, 2020 0.08 0.362[40]
6 "Honesty & Disclosure" September 27, 2020 0.09 0.318[41]
7 "The Dossier" October 4, 2020 0.06 0.257[42]
8 "The Wound" October 11, 2020 0.05 0.266[43]
9 "The Fall" October 18, 2020 0.07 0.360[44]

Season 2

Viewership and ratings per episode of The Vow
No. Title Air date Rating
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
1 "Tests of Loyalty" October 17, 2022 0.03 0.143[46]
2 "Rapport" October 24, 2022 0.03 0.105[47]
5 "The Room" November 14, 2022 0.02 0.100[48]
6 "Crime and Punishment" November 21, 2022 0.03 0.129[49]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "At Cause" was released on September 4, 2020 (2020-09-04) on HBO's website.[37]

References

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  3. ^ a b White, Peter (October 16, 2020). "'The Vow': NXIVM Sex-Cult Doc Series Renewed At HBO For Season 2". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  4. ^ "HBO Original Documentary Series THE VOW Part Two Debuts October 17". WarnerMedia. August 29, 2022. Retrieved August 29, 2022.
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External links